Lenny Henry has recently been in the media calling for the boycott of payment of license fees by ethnic minorites in the United Kingdom. He has for a while now been lamenting the case of absent ethnic minorities in front of and behind the camera in British mainstream media.
As a black female producer working in the UK this is a complicated issue and one size does not fit all. It is not as straightforward as it is being made to appear.
First of all I agree that there is a dire and shameful absence of people of colour in the meainstream media. We watch TV and there is no one that looks like us on TV on a regular basis. There is no one that looks like us giving expert advise or doing something great. What that does is deny we exist, it denies our humanity. It denies our contribution to the development of this country. My 4 year old daughter watches Cbeebies and she never sees children that look like her on a regular basis. She is now starting to identify white and black people but there are none of her type of people on the programmes she watches. What that does I believe is plant the seed of inadquacy in her mind--normal is what she sees on TV, not normal is what she does not see.
Secondly British Television is in no way representatve of British society. Ethnic people are found all over the country contributing positively at all levels of British Economic, Polictical, Medical and Social life yet this is not reflected in mainstream media. Rather they are quick to showcase negative images of people of ethnic origin.
If one looks at the British mainstream media I feel they exclude people that do not fit a certain prototype of what they believe should be showocased. How many white British actors, actresses, presnters have left the UK to work in the USA? These people have a role in a long running series or feature in a high grossing movie and you think they will be celebrated and given more work and become regular faces on our screens. Actually what happens is that after a short wile they disappear from our screens. I imagine they pitch all kinds of programmes to the media bosses and when they all fail to come to furition the y head off to the states in a bid to resurrect their carears. My point is that they do not only exclude ethnic minorities from mainstream media but they do so across the board. The issue of course is that it is far more visible with the minorities as there is just a clear absence of colour on our screens.
To sum up I'd say to Lenny Henry and others on the campaign you need to produce independently. There are over 2000 TV stations around the globe and most of them would bite their arm off to get your content. So start to produce and when you have that baked bean tin on the shelf in the supermarket the British media will themselves come and buy it from you.
And I am available to work on a co-production basis with other independent producers.